The last time India played a Test at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune, they were outclassed by Australia by a huge margin of 333 runs in February 2017. Batting collapses in both the innings meant that the Test was finished within three days. It is expected to be a different scenario when Virat Kohli & Co. take the field on Thursday as the visitors speculate how the new pitch prepared by curator Pandurang Salgaonkar behaves.
With a win in the Test series in their bag already, India have momentum on their side. Not just for Salgaonkar, it is a chance for several Indian players to redeem themselves in the Pune Test.
Ishant remained wicketless the last time he bowled here. The tall fast bowler bowled 11 and three overs in the first and second innings respectively but could not make a mark in the Test. The 31-year-old has worked a lot on his fitness in the past couple of years. His pace has improved as well. The opening bowler was impressive in the Vizag Test with his consistency. He will be looking to better his record as soon as he gets the new ball in his hand.
It seems like a rare event when run-machine Virat Kohli fails to perform in both innings of a Test. Kohli got out to Mitchell Starc edging the ball to slip fielder Peter Handscomb as he flashed his blade on a delivery way outside the off stump. In the second innings, he was stunned by left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe when he shouldered arms trying to leave a straight delivery from round the stump. The 30-year-old scored a total of 13 runs in two innings. He will surely expect himself to score big in Pune.
Cheteshwar Pujara was India’s top-scorer in the second innings but he could stay long enough to take the side even remotely close to the target. Similar to Kohli, Pujara lost his wicket to Starc and O’Keefe in respective innings. The ‘Wall 2.0’ is in form with an 81 in second innings at Vizag. India will need Pujara’s traditional style of Test cricket to hold on to one end if Pune pitch is anything similar to the one in 2017.
Ajinkya Rahane has saved his spot with a century on West Indies tour but a lot more than 31 runs in two innings will be expected of him as he takes guard in the Pune Test. The 31-year-old lost his wicket to O’Keefe in both the innings. South African skippers Keshav Maharaj and Senuran Muthusamy can do similar damage as the Australian coming round the wicket.
Wriddhiman Saha could manage to score only two runs in the Test including a duck. Saha has returned to the playing XI after a long time despite recovering from his shoulder injury. At Vizag, Saha got out trying to accelerate the scoring rate before the declaration from the dressing room. His 16-ball 21 was something which the team management expected of him under those circumstances. However, in event of a batting collapse, Saha will be expected to play a gritty inning to seal his spot in the side ahead of Rishabh Pant.